Jury’s Inn for the win – maybe surveys aren’t so terrible after all

SUMMARY:

Yeah, I still detest surveys. But Jury’s Inn gave my skepticism a welcome jolt, leaving me to find another chip for my shoulder. Here’s how they did it.

audience-clappingDiginomica readers know I’m not a survey fanboy. I still believe that the survey epidemic is upon us, and something must be done.

As the deluge of surveys slams into us, our tenuous grasp on productivity slips through our distracted fingers:

It happens, my beleaguered friends. It happens A LOT. Companies need our input. They need to know exactly how we feel about the button we just pressed, the web page we just clicked on. They need us to fill out… a survey.

I woke up this morning, checked my caller ID. The first caller of the day? A survey. Every customer interaction, no matter how trivial, triggers a survey. If my toothpaste company knew when I finished brushing (someday they probably definitely will – yikes!) they would send me a freaking survey.

Before the survey experts descend upon me with ivory tower contempt, let me admit there is such a good thing as a well-executed survey. But it’s an endangered species, equivalent to a rare whale sighting:

  • Survey spam is relentless.
  • Like email spam, eventually you start to tune all surveys out.
  • There are better ways of getting market intelligence without the alienation factor of spray-and-pray surveys.
  • Most surveys, with their “1 to 10” ratings format, are limited and impersonal. No furthering of relationships – just a pungent, “I just wasted my time in an exercise of existential emptiness” aftertaste.

The hotel survey is a classic. No sooner are you out the door and double-checking your flight itinerary, a hotel is firing off a survey asking you about your experience eating and sleeping, as if they are going to improve their continental breakfast and coffee cauldron based on your input. (Don’t worry, the discount offers will hit your inbox soon – Vegas in August anyone? – but they usually wait a week or so before cranking up that particular spam engine).

A good experience stops me in my dystopian tracks

Recently, however, I had a rather good experience with a Jury’s Inn survey for my stay at the Jury’s Inn Brighton Waterfront. I can’t lie to you: the experience made me briefly question my contempt for surveys as I scramble to find another chip to put on shoulder.

The biggest obstacle to getting yours truly to fill out a survey? Persuading me to click on the damn thing in the first place. To be honest, the only reason I clicked on this one is that I felt like giving Jury’s Inn a hard time about major construction work near my room that began at a very early hour.

But as soon as I clicked on the survey, I was treated to a welcome surprise: beyond the standard impersonal rankings, Jury’s Inn had done the unexpected. Big, appealing open text boxes stared back at me from the page, inviting my unfiltered comments.

So I happily filled them out. In truth, despite the construction-as-alarm-clock, I had a good stay. I’m not too particular when it comes to hotels. A four-star hotel with assorted butt-kissery is largely wasted on me. A clean/comfortable bedbug-free bed, a teapot and, ideally, a fridge and I’m rocking (European hotels tend to be strong on teapots and weak on in-room fridges, so it goes. In the U.S., I’m used to manipulating a mini-bar into a fridge. The more stringent the warning from the hotel not to do so, the more likely I am to attempt it).

The Jury’s Inn is really a vacation hotel for Brighton beach goers, so I wasn’t too hard on them in the survey, given that a business traveler tends to have a conflicting agenda (less need for baby toys, more need for laptop plugs and fast wifi). In truth I’ll happily stay there for our future diginomica meetings, and I told them as such.

The other thing is that while the stay wasn’t perfect (waiting hours for my room till the 2pm check in after a transatlantic flight wasn’t dreamy), those nits were overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness and team spirit of the hotel staff, who at one point located an important folder I had mindlessly abandoned at breakfast. Plus: the English Breakfast buffet was a damn sight better than muffins and fruits cups.

Cue the big surprise – a human interaction!

So I filled out the survey and sent it off. Case closed. No more than two hours later, I received a classy personal email from a hotel manager, which said, in part:

Dear Mr. Reed,

Thank you for choosing to stay at Jury’s Inn Brighton Waterfront and taking the time to feedback your experience that we value and appreciate.

I share all feedback with the teams daily and review any comments made to ensure we continue to drive our guest satisfaction further. I was glad to hear that you had a good time with us but sorry to hear about the noise disturbance which occurred. I would like to apologise for this matter and I will make certain to pass on each of your comments to the rest of the team.

We hope to have the opportunity to welcome you back at the Waterfront in the future.

Impressed by the timeliness and tenor, I emailed back:

Thank you – that was a thoughtful survey, and as I noted, I will absolutely recommend your hotel. As far as the noise aspect, I realize construction work is inevitable from time to time – I’m just questioning how early in the morning it needs to begin 😉
Your staff is clearly very dedicated, well done.
(By the way: “I share all feedback with the teams daily”? Wow!)

My take

Companies are compulsively addicted to surveys, at the expense of our user experience – not to mention our grasping attempt to enjoy life as we know it:

Southwest sent me a “how was your flight” survey while I was still in the air. A clothier sent me “rate our services” spam before the shirt arrived. Oh, and if your Internet goes down and you call Comcast, you have to listen to their survey pitch – and accept or decline – before you can navigate their phone tree and actually fix your broken whatever. EVERY SINGLE TIME you call.

Something must be done.

The challenge for companies: convince you that the survey they want you to fill out will be personal, enjoyable to complete, and lead to follow-through actions.

You’d have to be an egotist to believe all your ideas about how to run a hotel will be implemented. What we want to hear is that our voice matters, and that our ideas will be seriously considered. Public ideation sites are one alternative to survey assaults – especially if the rationale behind the ideas used and not used is clearly explained.

Or as Vision Critical has advocated to me, build the customer community first, and you’ll get more than you asked for in return:

One of the largest cinema chains in South Africa uses our software. They pre-released a trailer to a movie that they realized was going to flop in South Africa the way that that trailer was cut. They sent it back to Hollywood, redid the trailer based on the feedback from that community, and for that market. With this approach, potent customer feedback within 48 hours is doable. That type of turnaround is a pipe dream for traditional research.

Well, you’re at the end of my post, and there’s one thing I can promise you: I won’t be sending you a survey about it. But the open text box below is all yours.

Image credit - business team with laptop clapping hands © Syda Productions - Fotolia.com

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    1. says:

      I always try to stay in IHG (Intercontinental, Holiday Inn) hotels as my business travel means I get enough points to cover (or almost cover) a family summer holiday. I occasionally fill in the post-stay survey in the hope that I’ll win the 25,000 points (still waiting). The survey is far too long (I’d always fill it in if it was shorter), but the positive bit is you sometimes get a reply to positive comments and you always get a reply to negative comments. Either sometimes results in actual action – such as some points to compensate for something that went wrong.

      1. Jon Reed says:

        Nice – if you have confidence that the surveys are being read and at least considered – and if they are human enough for you to really indicate what you liked or didn’t like in a specific way, then I think that’s a good deal.

        The problem I have, and I think survey takers will have going forward, is of the five to ten surveys I get a week, I have no way of knowing really which ones will actually be meaningful to take. So I tend to ignore them all.

        One thing I should note is that diginomica does have a small meeting at this hotel and does book a couple of guests and also a meeting room. I doubt that impacted the quality of reply in this case as it sure sounded like they respond to all their guests, at least the ones with the kind of feedback I left, but I should probably have noted that.

        – Jon